Elusive Kinship: Disability and Human Rights in Postcolonial Literature (Paperback)

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Elusive Kinship: Disability and Human Rights in Postcolonial Literature By Christopher Krentz Cover Image
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Characters with disabilities are often overlooked in fiction, but many occupy central places in literature by celebrated authors like Chinua Achebe, Salman Rushdie, J. M. Coetzee, Anita Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat, and others. These authors deploy disability to do important cultural work, writes Christopher Krentz in his innovative study, Elusive Kinship.  Such representations not only relate to the millions of disabled people in the global South, but also make more vivid such issues as the effects of colonialism, global capitalism, racism and sexism, war, and environmental disaster. 

Krentz is the first to put the fields of postcolonial studies, studies of human rights and literature, and literary disability in conversation with each other in a book-length study. He enhances our appreciation of key texts of Anglophone postcolonial literature of the global South, including Things Fall Apart and Midnight’s Children. In addition, he uncovers the myriad ways fiction gains energy, vitality, and metaphoric force from characters with extraordinary bodies or minds. 

Depicting injustices faced by characters with disabilities is vital to raising awareness and achieving human rights.  Elusive Kinship nudges us toward a fuller understanding of disability worldwide.

About the Author

Christopher Krentz is an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia with a joint appointment between the English Department and American Sign Language Program. He is the author of Writing Deafness: The Hearing Line in Nineteenth-Century American Literature and editor of A Mighty Change: An Anthology of Deaf American Writing, 1816–1864, as well as numerous articles about disability in literature and culture. He is currently director of the University of Virginia’s Disability Studies Initiative and helped found their American Sign Language Program.

Praise For…

"Krentz effectively traces the evolution of disability in literature from 'a subtle, easy to miss presence' to something central to a work’s narrative, and... makes a strong case for literature as an agent of change.... [T]his book should have a spot on the shelves of literature students and scholars."—Publishers Weekly

“Krentz’s triangulation of disability, postcolonial studies, and human rights is original and significant work. In lively and engaging analysis, Elusive Kinship yields important insights about the intersection of disability with trauma and the different ways in which activism and community may be constituted, while providing critical discussions of the limitations of disability rights models. This book is a welcome addition to scholarship in literary postcolonial studies and disability in global contexts.”—Clare Barker, Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Leeds, and author of Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality

Elusive Kinship is a vital contribution to the growing literature on the geopolitics of disability and debility. Krentz provides a lucid analysis of disabled lives in the Global South as represented in literature while also thoughtfully deconstructing the politics of knowledge production of disability studies in the Global North. Making a powerful case that postcolonial literature assists in challenging these divides, Krentz’s attention to overlooked aspects of disability offers a deep understanding, complicating and transforming what disability is and how it is lived."—Jasbir K Puar, Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University, and author of The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability

"Krentz’s excellent study into the depictions of disability in postcolonial literature.... is hugely ambitious in both its scope and subject matter. Krentz’s prose is clear and highly readable, his grasp of the thorny theoretical issues with which he grapples is detailed and impressive, and the balance of classic works of postcolonial literature with lesser-known texts gives the work a broad appeal and relevance.... This study will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, including those working in disability, postcolonial, and human rights studies."Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

"Recognizing the parallel growth of postcolonial literature and global human rights, Krentz traces how literary works published after the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights potentially informed future rights instruments, most notably the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)…. Krentz primes readers of postcolonial fiction to read for disability, an approach that promises to uncover new dimensions even to classic works…. [H]is study does open a plethora of possibilities for future scholarship."Twentieth-Century Literature

"Krentz’s scholarly text is a brilliant work of disability studies, a brilliant work on the Global South and on current systems of power, and a brilliant consideration of twelve works of postcolonial literature. This work will become a go-to text for academics, and it will appeal equally to casual readers. Like the works of fiction that Krentz discusses, Elusive Kinship shows readers that disability visibility is important, that care ethics can be a strategic and activist antidote to oppression, and that current debates over human rights must be expanded. Hopefully, Krentz’s work will go on to spur more debates about human rights, definitions of humanity, and systematic inequalities."Wordgathering

"[A] thorough interdisciplinary examination of the importance of highlighting disabled fictional characters in the postcolonial Global South.... The highpoint of Krentz’s book is his use of literary characters to convey his argument..... Elusive Kinship is a vital contribution, not just to the interdisciplinary studies on which Krentz centers his argument, but also to educators, historians, and writers because of its emphasis on highlighting and incorporating often-marginalized communities.... Krentz’s Elusive Kinship serves as an important interdisciplinary work that adds to a richer discourse within disability studies and other fields of study."H-Disability
Product Details
ISBN: 9781439922224
ISBN-10: 1439922225
Publisher: Temple University Press
Publication Date: April 22nd, 2022
Pages: 203
Language: English